Suggestions for a single diner in Minneapolis (and Eden Prairie)
I will be visiting MSP for four days beginning on Saturday. I will be there alone and will have a car and am staying in Eden Prairie. Can you provide suggestions as to where a single (female) diner will feel comfortable dining, both in the downtown area and around Eden Prairie? I would prefer places ranging from low-end to moderate ($15-20 an entree). I am a fairly adventurous eater and am looking forward to trying what the area has to offer. I am visiting from Detroit so good Middle Eastern cuisine is something I can get easily back home but pretty much anything else is fair game. Are there any must-try places I should put on my list?
Thanks for your help. I'm really looking forward to my visit.
so am I understanding correctly that the prix fixe option at travail is NOT available for solo diners?
any idea on what a typical wait time might be for one person on, alas, a saturday evening?
i'm trying to decide between, in my short time in MSP, chancing it at travail or just booking a damn reservation already at alma... any thoughts?
There is nothing precluding a single diner from ordering the tasting menu (8 course $70, 15 course $125). It is designed to be shared and won't be pared down for a single. Courses aren't huge, and if you're hungry, I really doubt it would be difficult to do, at least the 8 course. A single will have no wait if they line up early before open (5 pm), and there are less than 60 people in line. That is a single seating. If the line is down the block, you'll have to wait on the list, and there just is no way of knowing if it'll be an hour, 90 minutes, or 2 hours.
The tasting menu is probably something like:
Micro Greens or Beet Salad
Blue Cheese Tater Tots
Thank you again for all of your suggestions. I did really enjoy my time in the MSP area. Below is a summary of my eating adventures.
On my first day there I didn’t plan well and was starving while at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts so I had a light lunch in the Mezzanine by D’Amico restaurant. It was quite good for museum food. I had the soup and salad combo – tomato soup and shrimp and avocado salad with tomato, hearts of palm, and greens. It was also reasonably priced. That evening I went to Punch Pizza in Eden Prairie. It was good but I’ve had better Neapolitan pizza here in the Detroit area. I was a little surprised when I asked if the Italian sausage was house-made or if they knew where it came from and was met with a blank look from the hostess/order-taker. She then asked one of the young guys prepping/cooking pizzas who though he was hilarious when he answered Italy. The punch salad that I had to start was tasty though the prosciutto seemed a little meh. The accompanying flatbread tasted of salt and burned rosemary. My pizza was kind of bland. I ordered it with Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, and onion. Most of the flavor came from the veggies; both the sausage and the sauce were bland. It did not appear that there were many, if any, spices in the Italian sausage that was on my pizza. I did enjoy a serving of salted caramel ice cream for dessert.
The next day I had lunch at Broder’s Cucina Italiana. I thought the place was adorable. I ordered a small Caesar salad to start and it was fresh, crisp, and garlicky. For my entrée I got the daily special – linguine with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, basil, Parmesan cheese, and green onions – and also tried a bread stick. Very tasty and fresh without being heavy which was a perfect meal for me at that time of day. That evening I was tired and didn’t want to venture out beyond Eden Prairie. I also was craving a burger and wound up at Smashburger as it was close to my hotel. The one location in the Detroit area is a 45 minute drive for me so I was able to rationalize it that way.
My final day in MSP was the best day of eating and I should have started that way; perhaps I would have been a little more adventurous throughout the entire trip. I had a late lunch at Tilia and was able to eat at the seats at the kitchen as I arrived a little after 2 p.m. Another extremely yummy meal. I had the fish taco torta (genius!) with a side of caramelized Brussels sprouts though mine came with a substitution of almonds as they were out of walnuts. I did get to watch them roast more in the oven as I was enjoying my lunch. I could eat a large bowl of those sprouts. For dessert I had the blueberry tart at the recommendation of the pastry chef; a perfect light yet satisfying summer dessert. I really enjoyed sitting at the kitchen counter. It was interesting to watch all that was going on in the kitchen. I wish, wish, wish there was a restaurant like this in the Detroit area. I would be there all the time. For my grand finale I braved the wait and went to Travail, on the recommendation of one of the chefs at Tilia. I think I waited about an hour and 20 minutes as a single diner but it was worth the wait. And I hate to wait! My only regret was that I couldn’t try the tasting menu as a single diner. I ended up getting the soup, scallops, mahi mahi, and steak. Again, what a cool place with the skills to back it up. There is absolutely nothing like this in Detroit and it was the most inventive meal I have ever eaten. It was also one of the best tasting. The tomato soup with the goat cheese mini sandwich is insanely good. The depth of the tomato flavor was intoxicating. The scallops were perfectly prepared and I could not get enough of the sauce/veloute/whatever it was. Throw a sponge in that and I’d eat it! I loved the presentation of the mahi mahi dish, too. And again, who is making the sauces and broths? They are insane and blew me away. For my finale I had the ribeye steak. What an amazingly satisfying and rich dish from a smallish amount of food. The sweet potato sauce smeared on the plate was the best thing on it besides the steak. I think the guys and gals at Travail need to can/bottle their broths and sauces to go. Wow!! I fully expected to have room for dessert and was taken aback that I was fully satiated with the four courses I chose.
I also was able to stop at three bakeries during my trip – Rustica, Patisserie 46, and Salty Tart. That’s how I would rank them in order of my preference and enjoyment. I had the best éclair of my life from Rustica along with a very tasty scone (black currant perhaps?) as well as a ginger cookie and a bittersweet chocolate cookie. Very yummy and very reasonably priced. At Patisserie 46 I got a truffle cookie (the best!), a pistachio and a raspberry macaron (yum!), and a coconut something that was also very good. I thought that Salty Tart was the least impressive of the three bakeries, though still good, and a little pricey for what I got. The bar with raspberries and blueberries berries was OK and so were the chocolate tart and the cupcake of the day – brown butter peach. You should consider yourselves lucky to have such wonderful bakeries in addition to the fabulous restaurants. Again, thank you for your suggestions. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time in MSP!!
Between downtown and Eden Prairie (in case you strike out in Eden Prairie, in south/southwest Minneapolis) that have counter seating and are just plain ol' good for dining alone are
Tilia (note that reservations are not accepted, and there is usually a wait, but a single diner may be seated sooner)
In Season, and you will find entrees there in your price range. If you don't, Cafe Maude is right across the street.
Cave Vin (French bistro) would be a good choice. Nextdoor is Pizza Lola, and you may be able to polish off a pizza on your own.
Not far from there is Broder's Pasta Bar with ample seating at the bar.
In Eden Prairie, I'm confident recommending Punch Pizza. Pizzas there generally serve one.
As far as downtown Minneapolis, nearly every place recommended on this board works well for single dining.
re: Brad Ballinger
Yes, there isn't a restaurant in town that has any formal dress code. People do tend to dress "up", but by that I mean a nice pair of jeans and a top for ladies. So you can save the time packing up the evening gown :-)
Most of Brad's suggestions are in South Minneapolis which again lends itself to street parking. They are also closer to the Eden Prairie area if that is important to you. I'm also a big fan of In Season and Cafe Vin.
Downtown isn't unsafe to park on the street by any means. As a matter of fact, our downtown is one of the safest I've ever been in during all my travels. The Warehouse district is where you'll find most of the nightlife. You can park on the street, it's just that it can often be hard to find a spot as they are limited. And you may have to feed the meter depending on the time of day too. Most of our great restaurants aren't actually in the downtown area anyway.
Since you are from Detroit, I'll throw one more thing at you. The best Coney Island Dog can be found at The Gopher Bar in downtown Saint Paul. Cash only. I've eaten at The American and Lafayette and this one holds it's own against those legends. Be forewarned, the owner is far right-wing and doesn't hide his feelings and the staff uses the f'ingheimer as a verb, pronoun, adjective, prepositional phrase, and every other. But the Coney's are that good. Just throwing it out there as you are from Detroit.
Have fun. Let us know where you go and what you decide to eat.
re: Brad Ballinger
I second the rec's for Tilia and Alma - some of the most creative cuisine around and single dinners can often get a seat at the bar in both places. Plus they both have a nice neighborhood feel, which makes them very single-female friendly.
Another great little neighborhood restaurant is the Birchwood. It is very casual and reasonably priced, but everything is well made and sustainably sourced.
Being from NE, I am not a fan of the 1029/Smack Shack lobster rolls. IMHO, they must be made with fresh lobster, and these are clearly made with frozen.
If you are feeling a bit adventurous, the Twin Cities are famous for our South East Asian food. I am partial to Pho 79 on Eat Street (Nicollet between downtown and Lake St.) Many others will recommend Quang, but the last time I ate there I thought the Pho tasted of powdered star anise and everything seemed to be loaded with MSG.
Welcome to the Twin Cities.
I can't help much on Eden P, so I thought I'd link this thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/759167. If you search for EP on this board, you may find more.
I'd recommend NorthEast Minneapolis as your dining destination based on your price point and I'll give you this list of restaurants so you decide which work best for you: Most of these restaurants are just outside the downtown area (less than 5 minutes) and you can find street parking vs. having to pay for a ramp.
The Modern Cafe
1029 Bar (Lobster Rolls)
The Sample Room
Alma (bit out of the pricing you mention, but take a look, it's our best)